Ammon, Idaho, a community with 14,000 residents, exemplifies the economic development benefits of having local broadband choice.
Ammon is a community situated in the southeast corner of the state, just adjacent to the city of Idaho Falls, a city with 60,000 residents. Because of its location, Ammon was experiencing its own digital divide — anchor institutions, hospitals, law firms and businesses were all locating in Idaho Falls where lower cost broadband access was available. Bruce Patterson, Ammon’s IT Director, described it like “an invisible line that was crossed” in a February interview with Community Broadband Networks. When businesses were evaluating whether to come to Ammon, these inquiries came with a request for affordable high capacity connections and Ammon could not respond. The incumbent carriers were not able or interested in providing these prospective businesses the broadband pricing or capacity needed within Ammon’s small town borders.
So Ammon looked for alternatives. What it discovered was that it could build and provide fiber services to itself at less expense than leasing these services from the incumbents. And so it did. Now the city is able to offer dark fiber leasing to any business that wants access to its massive fiber capacity, including financial institutions. The City also leases fiber backhaul to the middle mile companies who are responding to the incumbent cell phone companies’ requests for more bandwidth to their local cell towers as they deploy 4G services.
Ammon supported the Wilson and Chattanooga’s FCC petitions, and explained why local broadband choice is critical for sustained economic development:
“For many communities like the City of Ammon, one of the greatest barriers facing the private providers are the capital costs associated with improving their infrastructure. We are a small community of 14,000 immediately adjacent to the larger municipality of Idaho Falls with a population of some 60,000. This situation makes us low on the list for private investment on the part of broadband providers and also prevents us from receiving the financial assistance available to ‘rural’ communities. In speaking with our local providers, they would like to improve the infrastructure and by extension their services, but the capital to do so is either unavailable or they are unwilling to risk the capital investing in our local areas.
Faced with this situation, we respectfully ask: If barriers to municipal broadband are allowed to stand, what mechanisms remain available to local communities who desire to improve their broadband services and are willing to pool their resources to that end? For these reasons we strongly advocate that whether or not a local municipality can or should provide Broadband or Internet Service(s) must be….one of local choice.”
Follow Ammon’s lead. Get involved! Take 5 minutes and tell the FCC why communities should have full local authority to improve its Internet. Details on how to file ex-parte comments in support of the Wilson and Chattanooga FCC Petitions can be found here.